A Life Without Pain—Is It Really Possible?
THE knuckles on the index finger of his right hand are badly swollen. “When I get up in the morning, my hands are terribly painful and stiff,” explains this well-known South African surgeon. “I have had occasions now where during surgery it was just too painful to continue and I had to ask my assistants to take over.”
Arthritic pain like this, and even worse, plagues millions. In the United States alone there are some 19 million arthritics. In addition, each day there are an estimated seven million Americans in bed with low back pain. And at any given moment, over 12 million persons in just the U.S. are said to suffer with a headache.
Millions of others have painful toothaches, earaches and hemorrhoids. There is also the excruciating pain many suffer from the effects of cancer, heart and circulatory diseases, and from a multitude of other sicknesses and injuries. An authority on pain, Dr. John J. Bonica, observes: “I consider chronic pain the foremost health-economic problem.”
Each year Americans alone spend billions of dollars in the quest for relief. In the U.S., sufferers of back pain annually make over 18 million visits to doctors’ offices. And those suffering headaches are estimated each year to take up more than 12 million hours of doctors’ time. In the face of these stark realities, it may appear rash even to suggest the possibility of enjoying a life without pain.
In fact, when viewed in this light, what the Bible says about pain may seem farfetched: “[God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes . . . neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Rev. 21:3, 4.
‘That’s impossible,’ you may say. ‘Everyone suffers pain. It’s part of life.’ But is it? Did you know that even now there are people who never feel pain?
People Without Pain Today
A news report tells of a young girl: “On one occasion she was hiking in Switzerland. ‘Why are you limping?’ friends asked her.
“‘I hadn’t noticed that I was,’ said Joyce, smiling. She had a dislocated hip.” Yet this girl felt no pain. Nor had she ever felt pain in her whole life!—The Star Weekly Magazine, July 30, 1960.
Although this condition is rare, there really are people who live their lives without pain. The 1976 Encyclopædia Britannica notes: “There are upward of 65 reports of persons who were born without the ability to feel pain at all, or else very little.”
Would you like to be such a person? Would you desire to live your whole life without feeling pain? Many persons who daily suffer agonizing pain may, without hesitation, answer, ‘Yes.’ But consider what that could mean.
If while hiking or playing you developed a blister, you probably would not notice it until it became a terribly ulcerated sore. Also, it would be dangerous for you to attend a barbecue, or be anywhere near a fire, for a spark could badly burn you before anyone noticed it. Being unable to feel pain can have serious, even disastrous consequences.
Yes, indeed, pain is an important warning signal of the body. It, in effect, forces you to take action to protect yourself. So, then, what about that grand-sounding Bible promise mentioned earlier, “neither will . . . pain be anymore”?
Are you inclined to say: ‘We can do without the fulfillment of that promise; I’d rather be able to feel pain’? Such a reaction is understandable if you were to take the promise literally, in its restricted sense. But is that the way it was intended to be taken? Is it really proper to put such an absolute interpretation on it?
What the Promise Means
Look for a moment at the Bible’s setting, or context. Note that, just before, it is promised that God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes.” Now consider: Does this mean that God’s purpose is to change the normal function of the eyes’ tear ducts? Will he stop them up so that they no longer emit fluid? What would happen if this occurred?
Your tear ducts sprinkle tiny amounts of refreshing and cleansing dewlike moisture over the eyes throughout the day and night. This keeps your eyes moist and prevents friction between the eye and the lid. When your eyes are invaded by foreign substances, such as dust, smog and dirt, your tears wash these away. Importantly, too, tears contain an antiseptic substance called lysozyme, which disinfects the eyes and saves them from serious infection.
Thus it is seen that tears are vital to the health and protection of your eyes. So if God were to wipe every tear from people’s eyes in a total sense, it would be a calamity. Obviously this is not what God has promised to do. What, then, does it mean that “he will wipe out every tear from their eyes”?
It is not the tears that normally bathe and protect the eyes that will be eliminated. Rather, it is tears of sorrow that God will wipe away. God did not originally purpose for humans to shed such tears. However, the first human pair rebelled against His rule, bringing sickness and trouble on the whole human family, and it is this that has resulted in tears of suffering and sorrow. Notice from the context of this scripture how relief will come.
Just prior to the promise about pain and tears being done away with, the Bible writer reports: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away.” (Rev. 21:1) Note that relief is associated with the passing away of a former heaven and earth, and the replacing of them with “a new heaven and a new earth.”
Of course, the Bible is not speaking about our literal heaven and earth passing away. The “former heaven” refers to the unrighteous rulers now in power, including the present unrighteous political governments and the evil forces behind them. The “former earth” refers to today’s ungodly human society. On the other hand, the “new heaven” will be a righteous new government—the kingdom of God for which Christians pray. (Matt. 6:9, 10) And the “new earth” will be a righteous society of people who are obedient subjects of God’s kingdom.
So a life without pain will be enjoyed right here on earth when the former heaven and earth are removed and are replaced by a clean human society ruled by God’s kingdom.
But what will it be like when ‘pain is no more’? Will not people, at least on occasion, suffer severe pain that causes sorrow and crying?
[Blurb on page 4]
“There are upward of 65 reports of persons who were born without the ability to feel pain.”